Tuesday, October 1, 2013

“Fraidy Cat” Republicans

Byron York at the Washington Examiner says there are 175 Republicans in the House who would be willing and perhaps eager to vote with Democrats to pass a clean Continuing Resolution and end the government shutdown if Boehner would bring a clean CR to the floor.  York says there are only 30 “true believer” Tea Party nut cases plus another 20 to 30 House Republicans that might be willing to vote for a clean CR but are terrified that such a vote would bring them a Tea Party primary challenge that might cost them their seat.  York says Boehner hasn’t brought a clean CR to the floor because he is afraid of angering the 30 “true believers” and 20 to 30 other terrified Repubs.  The crisis will end, says York, when the 175 Republicans, or at least enough of them to join with the 200 Democrats to put together a 217 majority to pass a clean CR demand that Boehner bring a clean CR bill to the floor.
Political Scientist Jonathan Bernstein on his Plain Blog About Politics says he doesn’t dispute York’s count of where Republicans stand but that he doubts that the 175 House Republicans who would be willing to vote for a clean CR are “eager” to do so.  Bernstein writes:

“I see 30 true believers; another 20-30 who are so paranoid about primaries that they are externally no different from the true believers, and than another 150 to 175 who are "willing" or "eager" to make it known to smart reporters that they aren't really crazy at all and are perfectly aware of how self-destructive this strategy is for their party...but almost in all cases without their names attached, and without any action to back that up. Which leaves somewhere below 20 who are actually willing to end this thing.
These 175, too, are mostly paranoid about renomination, even if they want reporters to know that they're not actually nuts. They're the ones who drive what Boehner does. They're the ones who have to bear the brunt of the responsibility for this shutdown. They're the ones who are the 'fraidy cat conference -- so paranoid about renomination, and more broadly about allowing any distance to appear between themselves and the "conservatives" who they probably honestly have contempt for, that they're willing to run their party right into a ditch…” 

This is an interesting analysis but what it all comes down to is what Boehner finally does.  I don’t think there is any doubt that Boehner could get the 20 or fewer Republican votes he needs to add to Democratic votes to pass a clean CR if he wanted to end this thing.  So far, he hasn’t done that.  Why?  Boehner is more terrified of the Tea Party than anyone.  His Speakership AND even his re-election to Congress is on the line.  He may eventually give in and put together a bi-partisan majority to end the shutdown but he will know that when he does so he will lose the Speakership and very likely lose the best job he has ever had—being a member of Congress. 
And, NO.  I don’t think the Democrats in the Senate are going to cave to Republican demands, at least not anytime soon.  Reid is really, really angry with Republicans, particular the Tea Party Republicans and most Democratic Senators share his anger.  Additionally, the Democrats know if they cave on the shutdown then the Tea Party Republicans will be even more emboldened when it comes to the Debt Ceiling.  They will make many more demands in a few weeks when we reach that crisis.  If the Democrats give in, they will face just one confrontational crisis after another all through next year.  On the other hand, if they refuse to bow to the Tea Party, they may destroy it or, at least, weaken it to a point where it has little power to create trouble.  Additionally, there is a good chance that a prolonged shutdown will result in real inconveniences for many Americans who will blame Republicans.  If there is one thing Americans DON’T like, it is being inconvenienced  Not getting what they want, when they want it, even something as simple as going to a National Park, makes American voters REALLY mad, throw the bums out mad.  Right now it looks like most Americans will blame Republicans if this shutdown goes on very long.  That could cost the Republicans the House next year.  Republicans know that.  More importantly, Democrats know that and see no reason to make it easy for Republicans to stop destroying their party.

Stay tuned.  It is going to be an interesting few weeks—or maybe even months.

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